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Big burdens on little shoulders

  • Published at 12:15 pm August 12th, 2017
Big burdens on little shoulders

This past week, I was walking my seven-year-old son to his school, when I had an epiphany of sorts.

There’s something magical about Dhaka city at 7:30 in the morning: The half-awake streets are filled with early risers and young school-goers. And while there were lots of delightful giggles between mother and son, suddenly I was feeling a profound feeling of emptiness.

A swirl of emotions swept through my mind as I watched my seven-year-old carry his school bag over his tender shoulders -- a bag filled with heavy books, water bottle, and a packed tiffin.

My son was struggling with the load of his backpack and was losing his balance. I asked him not to schlep it anymore. But my strong-willed seven-year-old told me that all the kids in his class were old enough to carry their school bags and so was he.

It was not a long walk -- there was almost no traffic -- and soon, with a heavy heart, I had to see him off at school.

Too much pressure

Children’s education has become much more competitive these days, but high-level competition and comparison for these young children is not always a great thing.

The pressure on young, school-going children has intensified considerably over the last few decades. Health experts say children risk long-term damage to their health if they regularly carry more than 15% of their body weight on their shoulders.

It is for the concerned authorities -- the education ministry and the schools themselves -- to work out how to reduce the load on these tender shoulders. Parents, along with school authorities, must be made aware of this matter.

It has been very gratifying to see that the High Court has issued an order to enact a law prohibiting the use of school bags more than 10% of a child’s weight and the use of bags for pre-primary students.

We forget that the pressure to win and be the best can sometimes be too much for children, making them anxious and miserable

The ruling came following a writ petition collectively filed by three Supreme Court lawyers in 2014. The court, in its order, asked the respondents, including the law secretary and the mass education secretary, to formulate a law within six months of receiving the verdict copy.

The High Court also ordered the Directorate of Primary Education to issue a circular within 30 days for monitoring during the interim period. As per the circular, a monitoring cell has to be formed and the circular should outline what steps would be taken if the students are forced to carry bags over 10% of their weight.

After the primary hearing of the writ petition, the HC initially issued a ruling asking why directives should not be given to enact a law that will ban school bags heavier than 10% of the student’s weight. But we live in a country where our schools are not yet well-equipped to provide locker allocation for individual kids.

The meaning of success

All parents want their kids to achieve high levels of academic success but many of us make the mistake of focusing on a narrow definition of success, one which revolves around exams, grading, comparison, and competition with other children. We forget that the pressure to win and be the best can sometimes be too much for children, making them anxious and miserable.

Not only do these young children have to endure a stressful paradox, they may even develop health problems for a lifetime.

Apart from the textbook-oriented education that children get in school, we have to also nurture wholesome hobbies in them, which seem to be falling out of fashion.

Our children are truly the greatest blessings in our lives. As parents we should allow our children to explore their passion for music, nature, reading books, sports, and other hobbies.

Passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm for something. It is true that passion cannot always guarantee a successful life or financial stability. It isn’t the thing that guarantees a six-figure salary. But passion is certainly the key to a happy life, which is more meaningful and rewarding.

Miti Sanjana is a Barrister-at-law from Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and an Advocate of Supreme Court of Bangladesh and an activist.

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